Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet)

by Ann-Marie Macdonald

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Student Question

What are the dramatic and thematic purposes of the Dumb Show in the opening narrative?

Expert Answers

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The dumb show that opens the play is one without sound.  The dramatic purpose of this is that the audience sees three women, all silenced at the hands of men and the male establishment.  Desdemona being killed by Othello, Juliet by her own hand, and Constance throwing away a pen and draft.  In this dumb show, three women are all maligned, set aside and silenced.  The dramatic purposes of this scene help to establish the pattern of growth and development that will become part of the narrative.  This exposition can be contrasted with the ending to show a dramatic trajectory in which voice has been established and fully grasped.  The thematic purposes of the dumb show help to establish the theme of sexism and modern appropriation of voice that will underscore the entire drama.  It should not be missed that three women are silenced through men or an establishment controlled by men.  This helps to feed the overall thematic relevance in how women, both in drama (art) and the academy (analysis of drama and art) must seek to appropriate their own voice and ensure that it is brought from margin to center, preventing a repeat of any "dumb show" where they are the victims of being silenced.  The women silenced in the "dumb show" are also the three who at the end have reclaimed their voices.

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